Submitted by Hilary Canty.
Way to go, Orcas! Your support of the Community Emergency Response Fund has been fantastic and with your help, $100,000 was raised in the first six days. The primary goal of the fund is to help address the needs of the most vulnerable members of our island community, specifically, those residents who are wage-dependent or dependent on income from the public or charitable safety nets.
While you were busy donating, we were busy figuring out how to surface the emerging needs of the community, evaluate and assess organizational capacity, and develop an equitable and nimble way to distribute funds rapidly. The Orcas Island Community Foundation hosted a Community Check-In call last Wednesday with 40 nonprofit and community leaders to help align community response and learn what needs exist.
An advisory team was formed to help with distributions of the fund. Members are Judy Scott, OICF, Lisa Byers, OPAL Community Land Trust, Erin O’Dell, Orcas Island Community Resource Center, Berto Gandara, Emmanuel Episcopal, Brian Moss, Orcas Community Church and Hilary Canty, OICF. The first order of business was to adopt protocols.
On Thursday, we met (via Zoom, we are respectful of the social distancing protocols as well) and discussed the immediate and emergent needs and selected to make the following distributions.
• $10,000 to OCRC. It is immediately increasing case management staffing in anticipation of an increase in clients who need help navigating the unemployment, utility support, SNAP and other support applications. They also administer an emergency fund to help folks with critical bills.
• $10,000 to OPAL CLT. The Community Loan Fund at OPAL is set up to help with mortgage loans currently. They will be expanding their scope to include rental assistance for individuals and businesses (for all island residents). They can help folks navigate and apply for state and federal supports, and if needed supply subsidies. Ten families in need of support had already contacted them by Wednesday and they anticipate that number to rise.
• $10,000 to the Orcas Senior Center. It has doubled their home meal delivery this week (since ceasing the community lunch program at the center due to the virus). They are anticipating it may quadruple next week.
• $10,000 to the Orcas Food Bank. They are anticipating a spike in clients as many folks face unemployment or a severe cut in income.
• $10,000 to the food bank. Anticipating that access to food delivery may be impacted in the coming weeks and wanting to support local businesses who are feeling an immediate impact, these funds are specifically for sourcing local food to distribute. The food bank is working with local bakeries to provide bread, restaurants to offer to-go meals to replace the weekly served meals. They are also focusing on helping local farmers to immediately increase food production for distribution.
These grants were hand-delivered on March 20.
Deciding to spend 50 percent of the funds may be a bit risky, as we fully anticipate that the needs will rise and shift on a daily basis. These early investments will allow key support capacity to increase immediately and help bridge the gap until access to State and Federal programs is available. It is our belief that when the community sees where these funds were used and how
they helped, donors will continue to give.
OICF does not charge fees on community action funds, so 100 percent of your gift goes directly towards helping the community. If you are interested in contributing or want to learn more, please go to www.oicf.us. Stay healthy.